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Local agencies part of coalition to increase transit funding

Local agencies part of coalition to increase transit funding

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New York State transit budget (Source: New York Public Transit Association)
New York State transit budget (Source: New York Public Transit Association)

Dozens of agencies statewide have launched a coalition to seek funding for public transit.

The New Yorkers for Better Public Transit coalition comprises major transit systems from across the state, including Rochester’s Regional Transit Service, as well as members of the manufacturing, health care and economic development advocacy communities. The coalition is making the case for funding that will allow transit operators to grow with customer demands.

“Whether they live in city centers or rural towns, millions of New Yorkers rely on the services transit operators across New York provide on a daily basis,” said Bill Carpenter, RTS CEO and president of the New York Public Transit Association. “Our partners in the transit community and in other industries recognize transit’s role in regional growth and development. We are excited to partner with them to push for state funding in 2019 that complements the investments the state is making in our communities and cements transit as a key contributor in improving the lives of all New Yorkers.”

More than 9 million people in New York board public transit each weekday, and New Yorkers ride public transit more than 3.6 billion times annually, according to the National Transit Database. Public transit is a vital link for more than 3 million New Yorkers with disabilities.

“When we say transit investment boosts local economies, that’s not just an abstract idea,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “We’re talking about real people’s lives. When riders have access to transit, they can get to school, reach more job opportunities and stay connected to their communities—all without having to rely on a car. If we want to make sure everyone has a chance to succeed, we need to invest in our state’s public transit systems.”

The new coalition’s overarching goals, according to its position paper, is to implement a statewide transit action plan that supports all transit systems and communities throughout the state. Within that goal are four recommendations:

  • Increase funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that services New York City and other downstate areas. Provide long-term, recurring funding for the MTA through a congestion pricing program and other dedicated funding sources to address long-term capital and operating needs.
  • Implement a statewide plan that provides a multiyear investment plan that increases state operating assistance for upstate and downstate transit systems by 50 percent over the next five years, starting with a 10 percent increase in 2019-2020.
  • Continue to revitalize transit infrastructure. Provide $104.5 million in non-MTA transit capital aid as provided in the past two years; increase flexibility of funding.
  • Replace lost revenue to rural transit systems to continue essential services. Provide $5 million in permanent state funding to small urban and rural transit systems impacted by state Department of Health Medicaid transportation changes.

In addition to RTS and the Public Transit Association, the coalition includes the heads of the Capital District Transportation Authority, CENTRO, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and NICE Bus in Nassau County. Other coalition members from the transit community include the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and manufacturer Nova Bus.

Officials noted that transit does more than just bring people to work, school and other destinations; for every $1 invested in transit, $4 is generated in economic returns, and transit can help boost investments in health care, anti-poverty initiatives and education, they said.

“New York is home to more transit riders by far than any other state in the country,” said Denise Richardson, executive director of the General Contractors Association of New York. “Keeping public transportation strong is paramount to our economic health and well-being. All our GCA members are committed to doing just that, and we join with our colleagues around the Empire State to call for strong and reliable revenues that will ensure their continued success in moving millions of New Yorkers every day.”

Others who have joined the initiative include Reinvent Albany, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Capital Region Chamber, Vision Long Island, Riders Alliance and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, among others.

“Increasing public funding for transit is one of the best investments New York State government can make to grow the economy, improve quality of life, protect the environment and increase social justice,” Reinvent Albany Executive Director John Kaehny said. “We are proud to be part of this coalition working to make New York better for everyone.”

Coalition officials say increased transit funding will provide more mobility and connections in communities; shorter travel times, improved reliability and greater regional access; support for business growth and jobs; reduced poverty in upstate cities by providing greater access to jobs and training; improved livability; and revitalized downtowns, among other things.

“When considering investments in our community that can help families transition from poverty to prosperity, few can have the impact that greater investment in transit can have,” RMAPI Director Leonard Brock said. “More funding means better transit and better transit means better access to jobs, education and healthcare for those who need it most. If we are truly committed to reducing the rate of poverty in our state, and at the same time growing jobs and strengthening the economy, then we need a significant increase in funding for New York’s public transit system.”

The coalition has set up an online toolkit with information about the role transit plays in communities, as well as a petition to encourage Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to increase transit funding.

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